Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Can you Twig it?

Monosyllabically-monikered Swedish types Twig have a new album, Life After Ridge, out on Plastilina Records; I think you might rather like it. Have a butchers at this video of them performing an acoustic version of the opening track, Ciao Ciao Bomb, in Stockholm's Public Library earlier this month. (keep an eye out for an unscheduled appearance from a member of the public right at the end - hilarious!)

This next track's a belter too. It sounds spookily like Edwyn Collins covering New Order. It's also, coincidentally, the second (completely different) track going by the name of Indigo - both by Swedish bands - that we've featured on here over the past few months. What are the chances?!

Twig - Indigo mp3 (for 7 days)

Buy Life After Ridge here.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Jim Fixed It For Her (apparently)

Don't let the picture fool you - I don't actually own today's featured single at all. That's just an image I half-inched from Flickr. I do, however, have the song at my disposal, which is rather handy bearing in mind that I'm currently in the process of blogging about it.

Anyway, yes, Up In A Puff Of Smoke by Birmingham's own Polly Brown. What a tune! I stumbled upon this one quite by chance when it pitched up on an old K-Tel compilation I bought on one of my charity shop sprees recently. But it caught my disco ear the second I heard it, this being a pretty early example of the genre (it came out in 1974) and a belting good song to boot (even if it did, somewhat inexplicably, stall at #43 in the UK charts).

I was really surprised when I Googled for further info on Ms Brown, by the way, and found out that she was actually a white English lady rather than a black American soul diva, as she doesn't sound anything like you'd expect her to. Vocally, on this song at least, she sounds like she could have been in The Supremes or something, to my ears anyway. Have a listen and see what you think.

Polly Brown - Up In A Puff Of Smoke mp3

Mildly Interesting Pop Fact(s): Polly Brown had formerly been the lead singer with early-seventies popsters Pickettywitch, and had also sung on Sweet Dreams' (very) early ABBA cover and 1974 #10 smash Honey Honey. She was also romantically linked with professional oddball Jimmy Savile at one stage. 'ow's about that then?!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Stay Tuned

I've been enjoying Fi Glover's I Am An Oil Tanker: Travels With My Radio recently, a book which was originally published in 2001 but which I've only just got round to reading. (I'm nothing if not tardy.) In it, the erstwhile Five Live presenter and current host of Radio 4's Saturday Live explains her love of all things radio while visiting various stations around the world and chatting to the people they employ.

Reading it has really rekindled my love of radio too (not to mention Radio 2), which is a medium a lot of us take for granted nowadays what with the internet, multichannel TV, the hula hoop, deelieboppers, the pogo stick and lots of other modern distractions vying for our attention.

There are some fascinating revelations about, umm, difficult celebrities as well, such as these encounters the author endured during her time working at GLR (a local BBC station based in London and fond of changing its name every five minutes):

I interviewed Ned Sherrin at GLR once, years ago. He greeted our producer with a hearty guffaw and a warm shake of the hand. He spurned the hand of our researcher and barely acknowledged my presence in the studio... But as soon as the red light went on, Ned went off into a hilarious medley of anecdotal splendour involving his celebrity chums, a small incontinent dog and all three books he was plugging. During the travel he ignored me. During the record he ignored me and during my questions he ignored me. So I stopped laughing at his jokes.

At the end of the interview he stormed off in a huff (which was a pretty impressive huff), for exactly that reason. Although he stopped off to have another guffaw with our producer. We had quite a few complaints that afternoon and no one phoned up to find out what his book was called. I vowed to one day get a publisher to commission me to write a book about radio and travel all around the world on a pitiful advance simply to get the opportunity to say to a wider audience that I thought he was nasty to me. These little things can eat away at you, can't they?

Sadly he was not the worst either. John Barnes came on the programme while he was manager at Celtic - and the night after they had been beaten by Motherwell... I started off by asking him what went wrong last night at the Motherwell game.
He said they had lost.
I said 'I know that, but why did it happen?'
He said, 'Because Motherwell scored a goal.'
I said, 'Yes, I know that, but why couldn't Celtic get it together to win the game?'
He said because they didn't score any goals.
It got worse. I asked him if he thought that sectarianism came from the same place within people as racism. He said he had never experienced any sectarianism. I'm not sure that you even have to know that much about football to realise that whatever deep dark mood you are in, or however stupid you want to make the interviewer look, saying that there is no sectarianism in Glasgow is a bit of an own goal.
Excellent. Now I've got that off my chest too.

Good stuff, eh? I'm really glad now that Barnes failed miserably at Celtic (and, ironically, as a TV presenter).

Another highlight for me is when Fi describes sitting in the audience at a recording of a talk show in New York presented by psychologist Dr Joy:

April and Eileen were next, a daughter and her mum... Eileen was calling her daughter fat and trying to take too much control of her life. April said something that I thought was not allowed outside of a Sons and Daughters script: 'But I am a beautiful person.'

Well it made me laugh. Talking of low-rent TV shows, there was a programme called Britain's Youngest Grannies on BBC2 last night. That's right, BBC2. Not ITV2, Sky One or Five. BBC2. Sigh.

(one of Britain's Youngest Grannies, yesterday)

It wasn't so long ago that this channel would give us decent comedy shows (Red Dwarf, Fist Of Fun, The Mary Whitehouse Experience etc) in the 9pm weeknight slot. But now only repeats of old BBC3 rubbish will do, apparently; and the "comedy" quota is filled by endless reruns of QI, Room 101, Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. All decent shows in their own right, but shouldn't things like topical news quizzes actually be just that, ie topical, rather than featuring the news of two or three years ago, or whenever the shows were first broadcast? No, there should definitely be some sort of law against panel shows being repeated after the week of their original transmission, I say. (although I might be prepared to grant QI a special exemption. I'm generous like that.) Even tonight's "series finale" of Mock The Week is actually a compilation of the funniest moments of the latest series. So that'll be another repeat then. Remind me where our license fee money goes again?

Ooh, 'ark at me ranting away like a mad thing. Only one song will do today I think!

Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Kill Your Television mp3

You can buy I Am An Oil Tanker: Travels With My Radio by Fi Glover for as little as a penny (plus P&P) here.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Song of the Day

Daryll-Ann - I Could Never Love You mp3

Download classic Daryll-Ann albums for a snipsome £5.95 each here. You won't be sorry!

Monday, 22 September 2008

They Call It Acid (House Kings)

It's been a while since we heard anything from the Acid House Kings, and the news from their website isn't all that great - a follow-up to 2005's excellent Sing Along With The Acid House Kings still hasn't been recorded. The band do assure us, however, that they're in the process of "investing heavily in studio equipment... If all goes well the meaning of perfect pop will finally be defined in 2009."

Well hurrah for that! In the meantime, let's remind ourselves what we're missing.

Acid House Kings - Say Yes If You Love Me mp3

Buy Acid House Kings stuff

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Song Titles You'd Never Guess From Their Lyrics #1

The first in a short series (possibly very short, if I can't think of any others). The idea is pretty simple really and - unlike the song title(s) in question - does exactly what it says on the tin!

Madder Rose - Ultra Anxiety (Teenage Style) mp3

The other thing about Ultra Anxiety is that, good though it undoubtedly is, it's not even one of the best tracks on Panic On, the album it's taken from. The title track, Car Song, Sleep Forever, Drop A Bomb and Margaret are all arguably even better.

Oh sod it, let's have some Panic On as well, to prove the point. Then do yourself a favour - go and buy a copy from Amazon. (it's currently out of print but is easy enough to get hold of reasonably-priced second-hand.) This really is an absolute gem, one of the very best albums of the nineties and well worth a tenner or so of anyone's dosh - ultra anxious teenager or otherwise.

Madder Rose - Panic On mp3

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Don't Get Me Ron

The above photo has to be one of my favourite things in the world at the moment. It's taken from the back cover of the autumn programme of events for a local theatre in the south east of England. The people in the picture are the staff of the marketing agency (let's call them Marketing Tools) who are the main sponsors of the theatre in question.

So far so humdrum. But what is it about the picture that has me so enthralled? Could it be the toothsome trio at the front (let's call them Binky, Toby and Mufty)? Nope. It is, obviously, the magnificent, brooding presence of the bloke (let's call him Ron) standing to the rear of the pic behind Toby and Mufty. What a guy!

It's not difficult to imagine the thought process of the photographer (let's call them the photographer) and how he or she would have had to employ all his or her diplomatic skills in arranging the various employees of Marketing Tools into an acceptable formation for the snap...

"OK, guys, let's have you in a little semi-circle at the front, big smiles.... not you Ron. I'll come to you in a minute. Binky, could you undo your top button and thrust your chest out a bit? Lovely. Arms rounds the girls please, Tobes. Maybe if you could undo your top button too, show a bit of chest hair. The ladies'll love that. And Mufty, what can I say - you're gorgeous!

Now... Ron. If you could just move back a bit.... and a bit more. Bit more, love. And a bit more. To the right a bit as well please Ronnie... no, my right. And a bit more. Actually maybe it'd be better if you didn't smile - y'know, give the whole thing a bit of contrast. And perhaps you could pop these shades on as well. That's it. Now, everyone say 'cheese'!

Not you Ron."

My co-blogger Spike even has a theory that Binky, Toby and Mufty aren't actually employees of Marketing Tools at all, but are instead models drafted in for the photo opportunity to make the agency appear more glamorous and, well, less of a one-man (ie Ron) band. She's such a cynic, that girl!

Anyway, this song sums Ron up nicely I think.

Elias & The Wizzkids - Young and Hairy mp3 (top-notch Swedish indie pop)

Buy Elias & The Wizzkids stuff

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Leslie Phillips eat your heart out

If you enjoyed the none-more-seventies Europop of Trinity's 002-345-709 that we featured a few weeks ago, the chances are you'll also lurve today's track. (if you're really old you might even remember it - assuming Alzheimer's hasn't set in by now.) Dutch combo Teach-In swept all before them at the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest with the bonkers-but-brilliant Ding-a-Dong. The formula was simple: attractive female singer belts out world's catchiest tune backed by sinister-looking bunch of hirsute blokes. How could they possibly fail?

This was actually the last occasion that the Netherlands triumphed in Eurovision, which kind of puts into perspective the UK's current (and possibly terminal) 11-year wait for another winner after Katrina & The Waves - fronted, naturally, by the American Katrina Leskanich - won it for us in '97.

Anyway, I digress. Here be Teach-In!

Teach-In - Ding-a-Dong mp3

Even better is the original Dutch-language version, Dinge-Dong, which the band performed at that year's Dutch National Song Contest ahead of Eurovision proper. Best. lyrics. ever!

Buy cheesy pop

Friday, 12 September 2008

Three of a Kind #57

HIT AFTER HIT AFTER HIT. So boasts the front cover of 1986 dance compilation Night Beat II. And does it deliver? Well, for the most part, yes. You can't argue with the 'hit' credentials of Billy Ocean's When The Going Gets Tough, Colonel Abrams's Trapped, Princess's Say I'm Your Number One or Paul Hardcastle's Just For Money - even if the first one's a pile of old pants and the last one only got to number 19. (ironic, really, given that it was the follow-up to Nineteen.)

But on the other side of the coin, who remembers Debbie Sharp's Zapped By Love, Precious Wilson's I'll Be Your Friend, The Team's We Are The Team or Dynasty And Mimi's Dynasty Rap (The Story Of The Carrington Crew)? Nobody, that's who. Well, save for the artists, their families, friends, me and the fifteen other people who bought this album.

Incidentally, Dynasty Rap is every bit as terrible as it sounds. The rappers even get into character as Blake and Alexis (and possibly some others - I can't bear to listen to it all the way through so don't know for sure). Utterly cringeworthy!

All in all, though, and speaking typing as a long-time fan of eighties dance music, this double vinyl LP is really good, evocative stuff, and one of my favourite compilations. Picking just three songs from it to feature here is going to be tough, but I've opted for the following trio.

Full Force - Alice, I Want You Just For Me mp3

Full Force get busy one time! This musclebound lot originally came to the fore (or background) as one third of the cumbersomely-monikered Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam With Full Force on the superb I Wonder If I Take You Home, which made the UK top 20 several months earlier. Alice was comfortably their biggest solo hit, reaching the giddy heights of #9 in January 1986.

Regina - Baby Love mp3

OK, so this is basically a straightforward rip-off of mid-eighties period Madonna - but the song's seriously redeeming feature is that it's an absolute belter of a tune in its own right. Entirely derivative, but a belter! Baby Love only made #50 in the UK, but climbed all the way to the top ten in her native USA, and deservedly so.

Hugh Masekela featuring Jonathan Butler - African Breeze mp3

Ooph, that Hugh Masekela's been playing with his trumpet again! For this jazztastic number he's ably supported, on guitar, by fellow South African Jonathan "Lies" Butler. African Breeze failed to trouble the scorers in the UK, but it's a lovely, mellow tune which deserved to fare much better. Actually, it's easy to imagine it serving as the backing music on a Judith Chalmers holiday report from Lanzarote or somewhere similar on an old edition of Wish You Were Here. But don't let that put you off - it's fab, really!

Buy eighties music

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Semi-colons rule; OK?

They're from Bergen in Norway; they're all called Marie or Maria (apart from the one called Embla); they're all about twelve (well, seventeen); they make an agreeable pop-punk racket; they're Razika!

Razika - Love Is All About The Timing mp3

Razika - Commando mp3

(mp3s available for a week)

Razika's MySpace

Monday, 8 September 2008

Song of the Day

Spot of write-the-feem-toon, sing-the-feem-toon seventies telly song magic, anyone? Don't Minder if I do!

Dennis Waterman - I Could Be So Good For You mp3

And, as a Brucie bonus, here's Max & Paddy's inimitable take on the song from the series 2 Phoenix Nights DVD.

Get the best prices on classic television DVDs at this rather handy price comparison website.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Three of a Kind #56

Keeping up with the latest releases from your favourite bands and singers can be difficult in these fast-paced, information-laden times, we all know that. So please, allow us to help you keep on top of things, as it were, with this brief round-up of new stuff from a few of our favourite tip-top pop types.

First up, ex-Monkey Swallows The Universe singer-songwriter Nat Johnson releases her debut solo single Dirty Rotten Soul, on CD and as a download, on the 29th of September. It's accompanied by this rather saucy vid, in which our Nat leads a young Bill Bryson astray. Who'd've thunk it?

If the thought of having to wait a whole three weeks before you can get your hands on a copy of that fills you with angst, fear not! That nice Pete Green has a new four-track 7" single out right now. The Platform Zero EP is available for a snipsome £4 (inc P&P) from here.

Dennis from All That Ever Mattered has a rather splendid interview with the man himself on his blog at the moment, which I'd urge everyone to check out also.

And here's track three of Platform Zero, in which Pete (British) rails against the corporate toadying of the modern-day NME. Right on!

Pete Green - Best British Band Supported By Shockwaves mp3 (right click)

Finally today, it's Mr Green's great showbiz chum MJ Hibbett with the heart-warming It Only Works Because You're Here, from an EP of the same name featuring seven songs from his recent Edinburgh Fringe show My Exciting Life In Rock. You can buy the EP direct from the source. This one's actually been out since the 21st of July, so I'm hopelessly late picking up on it. But like I said at the start, it's difficult these days!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

More More Morricone

Yesterday I posted a couple of my favourite Ennio Morricone pop songs and today I'm going to post them again! Only this time, Questi Vent'Anni Miei has been rewritten as Funny World, interpreted by Ken Colman, and Se Telefonando has been transformed into Françoise Hardy's French hit Je Changerais d'Avis.

Ken Colman - Funny World mp3 (available for 7 days)

Ken Colman & Frank SinatraKen Colman...who he? Well, he's a jazz singer from Vancouver more commonly known as Kenny Colman. He hasn't had a huge amount of commercial success (although he did do the rounds of the American talk shows in the 60s) but he's an acclaimed vocalist on the international club circuit. He came to the attention of Frank Sinatra, who became a friend and mentor to not-so-young-by-that-time Kenny.
Funny World was included on Morricone's soundtrack of 1964 shockumentary I Malamondo - along with Catherine Spaak's Questi Vent'anni Miei - and involves some decidedly Sinatra-esque crooning.

Françoise HardyFrançoise Hardy - now there's a woman who just gets better with age. By 1966 she'd already released four full length albums and La maison ou j'ai grandi, released that year, was her fifth. Track 2 was Je changerais d'avis (which was recorded and released as Se Telefonando by Mina also in 1966), a building-to-a-crescendo promise to change every aspect of her life in slavish devotion to some chap or other. While I can't really agree with the sentiment, it's a beautifully enduring performance!

Françoise Hardy - Je Changerais d'Avis (Se Telefonando) mp3 (available for 7 days)

Here's Françoise performing the song in a shiny mini-mac whilst appearing to be lost in a tv studio. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

If you enjoyed these songs, they can be found on Canto Moricone Vol. 1. And you can visit the websites of two fine singers:
Kenny Colman website
Francoise Hardy website (she looks fantastic on that front page photo!)

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Morricone mania

Ennio Morricone has been a prolific composer of film and television scores but he's written some great pop songs as well. Here are two of them. Tomorrow: same tunes, different language!

Catherine SpaakThe first is the only song I've ever learnt phonetically, so I have no idea what the subject matter is. Luckily Catherine Spaak (niece of four time Belgian prime minister Paul-Henri Spaak) seems to know what she's on about in this single from 1964. I just know it sounds as if it should be sung in the saddle!

Catherine Spaak - Questi Vent'Anni Miei mp3 (available for 7 days)

Mina MazziniWith the second song I can have a bloody good guess that this is something to do with a telephone. The tune was partially filched from the siren of a Marseille police car and is sung by the woman known as 'Queen of Screamers'.

Mina - Se Telefonando mp3 (available for 7 days)

And handily, there's a video of Mina performing just this song on youtube, with a little wobbly dance at the end, bless her!

You can find both of these on Canto Morricone, Vol. 1: The Ennio Morricone Songbook - The 60's. The whole series of those albums
is really worth forking out for. Promise!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Three of a Kind #55

Ever have trouble dragging yourself out of bed in the morning? These guys know how you feel.

Captain America - Bed-In mp3

The Housemartins - We're Not Deep mp3

The Cardigans - In The Afternoon mp3 (mp3s available for a week)

Mildly Interesting Pop Fact(s): Subsequently becoming Eugenius, Captain America were forced to change their name after threats of legal action from Marvel Comics. The band soon found themselves in similar trouble with clothing behemoth C&A after using the chain's logo on the sleeve of the Flame On single. Actually it's a good job these brands acted so quickly to protect their interests, otherwise I would've been convinced the songs really had been recorded by the fictional superhero in a sponsorship deal with the actual clothes store.

Buy music.